Episode #166: Filmed in Presidio, Texas in late 2010, painter Rackstraw Downes describes why he views the work of some long-deceased painters to be relevant to his own contemporary practice. Paintings by such artists are shown including Claude Lorrain's "Sunrise" (1646-47), Jacob van Ruisdael's "Wheat Fields" (1670), and J.M.W. Turner's "The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons" (1834-35). Despite not using the same techniques as these painters, Downes seeks out their work because he considers it "useful," "provocative," and "like challenges."
Rackstraw Downes views the act of seeing and the art of representation as culturally taught, with different cultures accepting alternative delineations of the world as realistic. Often painted in a panoramic format, Downes’s images evince careful attention to details as well as to broad expanses of their surroundings. Created plein air in locations as diverse as metropolitan New York, rural Maine, and coastal and inland Texas—without resorting to the use of photography—his compositions feature horizons that bend according to the way the eye naturally perceives.
CREDITS: Producer: Ian Forster. Consulting Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Sollins. Camera: Bob Elfstrom. Sound: Ray Day. Editor: Morgan Riles. Artwork Courtesy: Rackstraw Downes, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Theme Music: Peter Foley.
"Sunrise" (1646-47) by Claude Lorrain courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art
"Wheat Fields" (1670) by Jacob van Ruisdael courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art
"The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons" (1834-35) by J.M.W. Turner courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art